San José State University
Department of Economics

Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

The Lorenz Energy Diagram

In the 1950's and 60's Edward Lorenz developed the concept of available potential energy and the schema of dividing Earth's energy reservoirs into mean and eddy potential and kinetic energy. By the 1970's Oort and Peixoto among others were able to establish numerical estimates of the sizes of the four energy reservoirs and the transfers among them. The 1974 estimates of Oort and Peixoto are shown below.

The values given in the above diagram are per square meter of Earth's surface. The numbers in the boxes are the stocks of energy in the various reservoirs. They are in units of hundreds of thousand Joules per square meter (105 J/m2). The numbers adjacent to the boxes and associated with the arrows are rates of transformation of energy and are in units of watts per square meter (W/m2).

These estimates, from Oort and Peixoto's 1974 article, are remarkable robust. They show up in the fourth edition (2004) of J.R. Holton's An Introduction to Dynamic Meteorology.

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